Playoff Positioning

With the Tigers nearly a lock for the playoffs, there has been a lot of speculation about who the Tigers may face in the first round. I’ve read and heard quite a bit that the Tigers need to win the division so they don’t have to face the Yankees in the first round of the playoffs. I wholeheartedly disagree with this line of thinking.

It’s hard to argue that the Yankees aren’t the favorites to come out of the American League. Of course they will be a formidable opponent. But if the Tigers are capture the American League Pennant and advance to the World Series they would have to beat the Yankees at some point. If you are of the opinion that the Yankees are vastly superior to the Tigers, it’s actually better for the Tigers to face them in a 5 game series than a 7 game series. The longer the series, the better the chance that the team with superior talent will prevail. Besides, what does winning the ALDS really get you anyways? Is there that much difference between losing in the first round of the playoffs or losing in the 2nd?

Don’t get me wrong, I want the Tigers to win the division. I want the Tigers facing Oakland in the first round, not because I fear the Yankees but because at the end of this year I want the Tigers to have a title of some sort. Whether that title is AL Central Division Champion, American League Champion, or World Series Champion I’ll be happy. The latter 2 are certainly possibilities, but the former is the most immediate and most within the Tigers grasp.

Want the division because you want the title, don’t want it because you think the Tigers can’t beat the Yankees.

18 Comments

  1. Jeff M

    September 22, 2006 at 6:08 pm

    Well said.

  2. Tater

    September 22, 2006 at 6:31 pm

    I get to the same place a little bit differently (and perhaps a little bit irrationally): I just don’t want to play the Twins. Between their big 3 hitters, their other scrappers, Santana, that infernal dome, and the ghosts of ’87, I want no part of them; bring on the As and Yankees, and in whatever order.

    More rationally, the point about a 5 vs. 7-game series is well-taken.

  3. Coach Jim

    September 22, 2006 at 7:05 pm

    A lot has been made about finishing with the best record to assure home field advantage. While it may be a FINANCIAL advantage, I don’t think it will improve the odds of winning. The home and away records are nearly identical.

  4. Greg

    September 22, 2006 at 7:29 pm

    I disagree with the logic. You want to avoid the best team early, hoping that someone else knocks them out and you don’t have to play them. Take the path of least resistance for as long as possible. Don’t the Mets prefer to stay in the NL playoffs as long as possible?

    That said, I agree to root for the division championship mostly for that reason–the championship.

  5. Greg

    September 22, 2006 at 7:32 pm

    Also, regarding the 5 vs. 7 games, it might be preferable to face the Yankees over 7 games. The Tigers are superior to the Yankees in depth of quality starting pitching, but in a 5 game series we might not get very deep in the Yankees’ playoff rotation.

  6. Adam Holwerda

    September 22, 2006 at 10:10 pm

    Um…I’m pretty much for the idea that I want my team to be in the playoffs for as long as possible.

    I want them to win the division, so that we DON’T get knocked out right away…although that could happen no matter which team we were playing (the Orioles, for example.) I don’t see the Tigers winning the World Series, I just want our boys to get a little more respect and go out strong. And there’s a better chance we do that when we AREN’T playing the Yankees right out of the gate.

  7. Kyle J

    September 22, 2006 at 11:12 pm

    I’d like to give the Twins a chance to knock off the Yankees in a 5-game series. With Santana potentially pitching in NY in games 1 and 5 and games 3 and 4 in the evil dome, I think they’d have a decent shot.

    But in the end, I want to win the division for the title. With the way they dominated the league for most of the year, it’d be nice to win something you can fly a flag for. (I don’t think anyone flies “Wild Card Winner” flags, do they?)

  8. Ryan S

    September 22, 2006 at 11:14 pm

    I agree with Greg that the Tigers stack up better against the Yankees in a 7 game series. The Yanks fourth starter (probably Jaret Wright) is definitely their weak link. You wouldn’t even see him in the division series.

    Another thought. If we start with Oakland, we won’t have to potentially play the Yankees AND the Twins.

    …oh yeah – and I want a Division title, too.

  9. T Smith

    September 22, 2006 at 11:47 pm

    I have to agree with Greg on this one. I would prefer to face the Yankees in a 7 game series; in 7 games, I think we have the depth advantage. I also want to see the first two playoff games at CoAmerica. That’s the main thing. Going into Yankee stadium, we could very easily be coming back to CoAmerica 0-2, facing Mussina the third game. I’m not saying the Yankees would sweep, but that’s a lot of pressure on our wet-behind-the-ears playoff club. Given a matchup between the Tigers under pressure against the Yankees, you have to pick the Yankees. In my humble opinion, the Tigers simply have little to no chance given those cards.

    Then there’s the argument of having the Twins knocking the Yankees off first. I would much rather play the Twins than the Yankees. Look, we can beat the Twins–we’ve been beating them all year. So the last series didn’t go our way…a couple different calls, a couple more hits, we could have easily taken three in that series, which is more that I can say about our two series against the Yankees. In fact, we could easily be 0-7 against the Yanks this year (no Riveria in both games we won).

  10. T Smith

    September 22, 2006 at 11:55 pm

    Bottom line is, in theory, the argument Bilfer advances makes sense. One could also argue that Tigers play just as well on the road as they do at CoAmerica… However, the Tigers simply have not demonstrated (to me anyway) that they can get past the “mystique” of the Yankees. You know, that “magic something” the Yankees have that Lou Pinella got all hot under the collar about a couple years ago. Talk about a team that gets in your head. The Yankees get into everybody’s head.

  11. Lee Panas

    September 23, 2006 at 12:04 am

    Billfer, I couldn’t agree more. I want them to win the title simply because a division title is a more significant accomplishment than a wild card berth. While they are at it, I also want them to catch the Yankees. Best record in the league during the regular season would be an amazing accomplishment regardless of what happens in post-season.

  12. Nick G

    September 23, 2006 at 12:18 am

    Billfer, once again, you’re right on. Out here in Orange County where I live, the 2002 Angels were the wildcard and had the unenviable task of beating the Yanks at Yankee Stadium. You know the rest. They beat the Yanks, the Twins and the Giants to claim an improbable trophy. Funny, it was before Vlad even arrived in Los Angeles, California, Anaheim, Orange County.

    What do the Tigs have in common with the 2002 Halos? Deep pitching. Deep pitching. Deep pitching. It’s like gold in the playoffs.

    In the words of Eminem when he heard he drew Lickety Split in the first round of the rap battle in the movie “8 Mile”…

    “I don’t give a f$#@ who it is.”

  13. Kurt

    September 23, 2006 at 12:52 am

    I, too, would like to see a division title, because as someone, somewhere put it, flying a division pennant in your stadium is acceptable. Flying a wildcard pennant is not.

  14. ron

    September 23, 2006 at 1:09 am

    It doesn’t matter who the tigers face; if the young pitchers are on their game, each and every game, they will win the whole enchilada. if not, it’s been a hell of a season.

  15. Greg

    September 23, 2006 at 1:16 am

    Another follow-up on the merits facing the Yankees now or round 2. In round 1, because the Yankees have clinched so early, their rotation will be set up. But if they get pushed to a 5th game in round 1, we might face Wright or someone multiple times in a 7-game series, because their rotation won’t be set.

    Of course all this depends on winning round 1 … first things first.

  16. Nick G

    September 23, 2006 at 1:19 am

    We all want a division title. Most definitely. The point, it appears, is that a wildcard isn’t a death sentence.

  17. Greg

    September 23, 2006 at 1:33 am

    This doesn’t relate to playoff “positioning,” but I’m bored and feel like posting. Without Stairs, is Thames going to start at DH in the playoffs? Will Shelton get any meaningful at-bats? Is Rodney trustworthy, or will Leyland try to go straight from Zumaya to Jones?

  18. Nick G

    September 23, 2006 at 2:09 am

    Why does everybody underestimate the A’s? It’s not like the team that plays them will have a holiday in the first round…